Friday, November 30- Let the Countdown Begin!

     Have you ever seen the cooking show called Iron Chef? It pits two chefs against each other, mano a mano as it were, in what is aptly and QUITE dramatically named Kitchen Stadium. The host, played by martial artist Mark Dacascos, is even more dramatic than the name of the set on which the battle happens. He comes out to tense, terse music, with smoke machines working overtime to make sure the whole thing looks terribly surreal. He then reveals “the secret ingredient”, which is built up to be the greatest thing ever seen in the history of the planet. It is dramatically revealed to be something goofy like jelly beans or Kool-Aid powder! And then, as if we haven’t had our intelligence insulted quite enough, the camera zooms in as he screams, “Let the BATTLE BEGIN!” Oh, the drama!
     That opening sequence has been running through my head recently. Why? Because tomorrow is…DECEMBER! 25 days until Christmas! In other words- let the BATTLE BEGIN! Just think- we have officially begun the “runaway train tour”. Think not? guess again! The train has pulled out of the station…JUST pulled out…and right now it is simply trying to build up a head of steam. It is barely chugging, poking along. And you are thinking to yourself, “Oh! This isn’t bad at all! At this pace, I can keep up just fine and Christmas will simply NOT sneak up on me this year!” Yeah, sure! And I have a HUGE croquet wicket on the St. Louis riverfront to sell you!!
     The truth is that, no matter how slow the Christmas train is running now…it IS gaining speed. And it is gaining speed rapidly. And all of a sudden, before you even see it coming, it will be going SO fast that you can’t keep off but are too afraid to jump off. And then…SLAM…Christmas is here and gone! That is…if you let it.
     You see, you have a choice. You don’t HAVE to let this scenario play out THIS year like it has ever OTHER year. You can choose to say, “I refuse to get SO caught up in the ‘busyness’ that I miss the whole point. I WILL, with GREAT intention, focus on Jesus Christ and why we celebrate Christmas. I will vow to not overspend just to but lots of ‘stuff’ but instead focus on relationships. I will NOT let Madison Avenue dictate how I celebrate such a glorious event!” 
     What do you think- can you do it? Can you do things differently this year? Can you make the change? If you CAN…it will be a Christmas season like no other you have ever experienced. If you CAN’T…hang on tight and keep your arms and legs inside the car- the ride is just starting!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Sinatra Embarrassed Me in the Grocery Store!

Thursday, November 29- “They Came From a Fire!”

     A man drove into a small Southern town , where hr noticed a Nativity Scene that showed great skill and talent had gone into creating it. One small feature was bothersome. The three wise men were wearing firemen’s helmets. Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, the man drove on. At a “Quik Stop” on the edge of town, he stopped and asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets. She exploded into a rage, yelling at him, “You Yankees never do read the Bible!” He assured her that he did in fact read the Bible, but simply couldn’t recall anything about firemen in the Bible. She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in his face she said in her strong southern drawl, “See, it says right here, ‘The three wise man came from afar.'”
     Nativity scenes are a fascinating thing. They are interesting, unique, colorful, simple, complex and about 4,000 other words I could think of. At our recent Christmas Bazaar, my church displayed something over 100 Nativities- it was amazing and nearly overwhelming. They were all so unique and beautiful. And now, I have a rather large Nativity scene – the one in the picture, to be exact – in the front yard. (It’s so big, it sits on a trailer!) 
     If you look at a Nativity, you will notice some things:
1. They are usually very pastoral. They are clean, tidy, almost sanitized.
2. The people in the Nativity are usually well-dressed, with bright, colorful clothes that look like they just came off the rack at the local mall.
3. The animals are clean, healthy, and seemingly very well behaved.
4. They are in a nice, sometimes VERY nice, wooden structure.
5. The wise men are there when Jesus was a baby. 
     But the reality is that probably NONE of those things are accurate. It is very doubtful that the setting was clean, tidy, almost sanitized. The folks were probably in dirty, faded, worn clothing. The animals were probably dirty and somewhat malnourished. The whole event quite possibly took place NOT in a wooden structure but a cave. Wood was scarce. And the Bible says that the wise men showed up at Jesus’ house when He was about 2 years old.
     So our quaint Nativities are probably NOT historically accurate. And to that I say, “So what?” Really- does it matter one little whit whether our marvelously presentational versions of the birth of Jesus are correct or not? NO! Why? Because we can speculate all we want but unless someone hops in the DeLorean, gets it up to 88 MPH and sets the flux capacitor for 12/25/00…we will never know for sure anyway! And the details to the story don’t have any real impact on the greater story, which is that God CHOSE to come down and walk among us. And He CHOSE to show up in the most helpless, vulnerable form possible…a baby. And He grew up, taught, preached, healed…and died…for US! But the grave could not keep Him and on the 3rd day He rose again. THAT’S what the Nativity is all about…ultimately. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stand out in my front yard and look at the cool Nativity!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Let the Countdown Begin!

Wednesday, November 28- Christmas Expose: The Numbers

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today, we begin a new study, Christmas Expose’, in which we dig into the meaning BEHIND the traditions of Christmas.)

1. Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25?
• Jesus was almost certainly not born in the winter (scholars argue over whether it was actually in Autumn or Spring)
• Early Christians didn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth. They were too busy preparing for His imminent return.
• The first recorded recognition of Jesus’ birthday was in 354 A.D.
• The word Christmas comes from Middle English “Christemasse” and the Old English “Cristes mæsse”, literally meaning “Christ’s Mass”.
• The winter solstice was on December 25 in the Julian calendar
• The winter solstice was the time when the sun was “reborn”
• Persia and India celebrated the birth of sun god Mithras on December 25
• Saturnus, the god of seed/sowing, was honored with a festival- the Saturnalia
• It was later celebrated as Brumalia (“winter solstice”)
• Hoping to convert pagans, early Christians chose December 25 as their date
• By mid-4th century, pagan celebrations absorbed into Christian Christmas
• The Julian calendar lost 1 day every 128 years
• In 325 A.D., Christmas was on December 22nd
• By 1582 it was on December 12th
• That year, Pope Gregory XIII (he of the Gregorian calendar) restored December 25
• Christmas was slow to catch on in America
• Early colonists considered it a pagan ritual
• Christmas was banned by law in colonial Massachusetts

2. What’s the story behind “The 12 Days Of Christmas”?
     There are varying reports as to the meaning of this song. Here are 3 of the more common.
Legend #1- during the middle ages, it was a crime punishable by death to be a Catholic. A “coded” song was written as a mnemonic device to teach the Catholic catechism to children; each of the gifts are a clue:
• “my true love” is God
• “me” is baptized believers
• “a partridge in the pear tree” is Jesus
• “2 Turtle Doves” are the Old and New Testaments
• “3 French Hens” are Faith, Hope, Love, the Theological Virtues found in in 1Corinthians 13
• “4 Calling Birds” are the Four Gospel writers
• “5 Golden Rings” are the 1st 5 Books of the Old Testament- the “Pentateuch”
• “6 Geese A-laying” are the 6 days of creation
• “7 Swans A-swimming” are either the 7 Catholic sacraments (Baptism, confirmation, Communion, penance, anointing the sick/dying, holy orders, marriage) or the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (prophecy, ministry, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, compassion)
• “8 Maids A-milking” are the 8 beatitudes (Blessed are: the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly, they who hunger and thirst for holiness, they who show mercy, the single-hearted, the peacemakers, those persecuted for holiness’ sake)
• “9 Ladies Dancing” are the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)
• “10 Lords A-leaping” are the 10 commandments (no other gods, no idols, don’t take God’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath, honor your father and mother, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet)
• “11 Pipers Piping” are the 11 faithful apostles (Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the Lesser, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot)
• “12 Drummers Drumming” are the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed. I believe: 1) in God, 2) in Jesus Christ, 3) He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, buried, and descended into hell, 5) on the 3rd day he rose again, ascended into heaven, and is seated at God’s right hand, 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead, 7) in the Holy Spirit, 8) in the holy catholic Church, 9) in the communion of saints, 10) in the forgiveness of sins, 11) in the resurrection of the body, 12) in life everlasting)

A Scottish Variation on Legend #1:
• Twelve for the twelve Apostles
• Eleven for eleven who went to Heaven
• Ten for the Ten Commandments
• Nine for the nine bright shiners- astronomical reference, maybe sun, moon, known planets
• Eight for the April rainers- the Hyades star cluster,  thought to bring in the April rains
• Seven for the seven stars in the sky- 7 Sisters, the Pleiades star cluster
• Six for the six proud walkers- perhaps a Biblical reference to Ezekiel 9:2 – six men with swords come in a vision to slaughter the people, whose leaders have committed sins
• Five for the symbols at your door- putting a pentagram at the door to ward off witches and evil spirits
• Four for the Gospel makers
• Three, three, the rivals- could refer to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, or the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, or Peter, James and John- “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Luke 22:24).
• Two, two, the lily-white boys, dresséd all in green, oh- Could be Jesus and John the Baptist or the Old and New Testaments
• One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so- Probably God, although in the Middle Ages, God was more commonly thought of as the Trinity
(The lyrics of this version are, in many places, extremely obscure, and seem to be an odd mixture of Catholic catechism, astronomical mnemonics, and pagan cosmology.)

Legend #2- it’s simply a delightful nonsense rhyme, set to music and used as a “memory game”!

• January 6 is Epiphany, also known as the 12th Day of Christmas or 12th Night (Jan. 5th)

3. Were there REALLY 3 Wise Men?
• History depicts 3 Wise Men coming to the stable to worship the baby Jesus.
• In the Bible, there is absolutely no mention of how many Wise Men came. The number 3 was chosen simply because that’s how many gifts were brought.

• In “The Travels of Marco Polo”, the adventurer tells of visiting a Persian city called Saveh. He says this is the city from where “the three Magi set out when they came to worship Jesus Christ”. He goes on to say that he saw three tombs “of great size and beauty”. In them were three “bodies…still whole, and they have hair and beards.”
• Historically, they are given names: Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. The names come from an early 6th Century Greek manuscript.
• The Wise Men didn’t get to Jesus until he was about 2 years old. Our Nativity scenes have it incorrect!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- “They Came From a Fire!”


Tuesday, November 27- The Advent…of Advent

    “Advent is coming, how joyful it will be! The family will gather ’round the Advent tree!” I DON’T think that’s how the song goes, is it?
Are you familiar with the term “Advent”? 
     Advent (from the Latin words advenire- “to come to” and adventus- “to arrive”) is the period of hopeful waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas (the Sunday nearest November 30), and ends on Christmas Eve. The primary color of Advent is purple- the color of repentance and fasting as well as the color of royalty.
     So Advent is the period leading up to Christmas Day- the Christmas season, if you will. This year, it begins on December 2nd…next Sunday. And one of the primary emphases of Advent is waiting. We are called to wait for the coming Messiah. We are asked to spend the four weeks (ish) of Advent…simply…waiting. And I don’t know about you, but I. Don’t. Wait. Well!
     The truth of the matter is that waiting requires…what? Patience! That’s right- patience. And patience is one of the things in my life that is a…let’s say…challenge! I have gotten MUCH better over the years about patience. BUT…waiting is not my favorite thing. I don’t like to be late and I don’t like to wait. I am not happy when I have to wait because of something I did, but I am even LESS happy when I have to wait because of something someone else did. (I know, right? I’m just a big baby!) And with that as the backdrop, I am being asked to WAIT…on someone ELSE? Aaaaawwww SNAP, son!
     But yes, we are called to wait on the coming of a baby in a manger in a backwater town. We are called to wait for this child whose parents couldn’t even get a decent room for the delivery. We need to wait for this Jesus Who comes to save the world, to save us!
     This season, wait for Jesus. Prepare your heart and mind and just…wait. If you can show patience as you wait, you will NOT be disappointed by this coming Messiah. We can…He WILL…change your life…forever!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Christmas Expose’- the Numbers

Monday, November 26- Those POOR Greens!

     In my home church, there was a couple named the Greens- we’ll call them Don and Alma. Don and Alma Green were a nice couple who were very active in the church. But we would joke EVERY year when Christmas came. Why? Because the church would sponsor an event called the Hanging of the Greens! And we always said that the Greens got VERY nervous when it came time for…the hanging of the Greens!
     I bring this up because my church just celebrated The Hanging of the Greens last night. And it was an…AWESOME event! The whole thing kicked off at 4PM. There were people ALL over the church- some were decorating, some were helping kids do a myriad of Christmas-related crafts, some were decorating sugar cookies and some were getting dinner ready. Then, at about 5PM, everybody gathered in the dining room and dinner was served. Sloppy Joes, applesauce, chips, carrots, cookies and ice cream was the menu of the day. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 105 people sat down and ate together! It was great! There is nothing quite as great as the sound of a church full of people, eating and sharing great conversations. The noise is nearly deafening…and awesome! The other funny thing about church meals is that sloppy joes and chips at home would have been…a bit…ho hum! But sloppy joes and chips at church, with me church family, prepared by someone OTHER than me? Delicious!
     Then, we went upstairs to the Fellowship Hall area, right next to the sanctuary. Everybody gathered together around the Christmas tree, with the kids sitting on the floor. One of the MANY teachers in my congregation sat in a big, overstuffed chair and read a book called The Christmas Story. We sang some Christmas carols and then lit the Christmas tree. Everybody talked for a few minutes, wished each other a great week and then went home. What a wonderful evening!
     While I have never participated in a Hanging of the Greens quite like this one, every church I have ever been a part of has had wonderful Christmas traditions- great events that brought multiple generations together in powerful and intimate ways. And for my money, that is one of the best things about being a part of a church. It doesn’t matter whether you have “blood family” or not. If you want fellowship and family, you can find it at church. And, if you’re not careful, you’ll also get a healthy dose of the love and forgiveness of God in the midst of everything else!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- The Advent…of Advent

Sunday, November 25- From Sob to Song: The Book of Habbakuk


     A person who is exceptionally skilled in a wide variety of disciplines is known as
 a polymath. You might be more familiar with the term “Renaissance man”. Perhaps the best example of a polymath or Renaissance man would be Leonardo da Vinci. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. Major polymath. On the other hand, someone who is capable in many areas but “exceptionally skilled” in none of them is often referred to as a jack of all trades. And when someone uses the term “jack of all trades”, it is OFTEN followed by…”master of none”! With those definitions in mind, I’m a bit of a ….jack of all trades. Back in the day, I would have been called a journeyman. I have worked as an actor, a magician, a business manager. I’ve trimmed Christmas trees by hand and worked on a farm. I have sold doors and door hardware. I worked as a photographer. I have even been licensed to sell insurance and securities.
     And throughout all of it, I slowly (some might say glacially) moved toward faith. And the deeper my faith grew, the more I began to pray for a sign. I prayed harder and harder for God to show me exactly what I was supposed to do with my life. I was tired of being a jack of all trades- I wanted to focus on something. I wanted a sign. And then…God actually answered me! God. Gave. Me. A. Sign! And that sign was? God said to me, and I quote, “I want you to go into the ministry!” “Aaawww SNAP, son! You have GOT to be kidding, right? I mean, I would rather have a sharp, pointy stick jabbed in my eye than go into the ministry. Come on, God, I’ll do ANYTHING but that!” God just smiled and said, “Hey…you asked!” And so, I shook my head…and gave in! OK- I shook my head for about TEN years…and THEN gave in!
     The truth is- we often desperately pray for something, and then don’t want it when we actually get it. When we receive a message from God, we reject it out of hand because it’s not what we want to hear. The Old Testament prophets are famous for delivering those messages from God. But today, we look at Habakkuk, who turned that model on its head. Instead of taking God’s message to the people, Habakkuk takes the people’s complaint to God.
     The name Habakkuk (which, by the way, can be pronounced either Huh-BACK-uck or HAB-uh-kuck) means “embrace”, and that’s exactly what Habakkuk did. He took his nation to his heart. He comforted them and held them up.
     The Book of Habakkuk is filled with troubling questions. Have you ever looked at the world, with all the injustice and violence and said, “Why doesn’t God do something about this? I pray and I pray, but my prayers do no good!” This is the problem that Habakkuk faced.
Habakkuk 1:2-4- LORD, how long must I ask for help and you ignore me? I cry out to you about violence, but you do not save us! Why do you make me see wrong things and make me look at trouble? People are destroying things and hurting others in front of me; they are arguing and fighting. So the teachings are weak, and justice never comes. Evil people gain while good people lose; the judges no longer make fair decisions.
     So a long-standing concern finally erupts in one great, volcanic complaint. There is nothing but violence, injustice, strife and contention. The law is not being enforced. There is no legal protection for the innocent people and the courts are being manipulated by selfish lawyers and cruel officials. And yet, in the midst of all this turmoil, God seems to be doing nothing to help the situation. And in Habakkuk’s mind, for a righteous God to see all this evil and do nothing about it is beyond his ability to comprehend.
     We often have same problem, don’t we? “Why is God painfully silent when I pray? Why is God indifferent- doesn’t He hear me? Why is God insensitive- doesn’t He help me? How long will this go on?” Our concern is Habakkuk’s concern- the corruption goes unchecked and our cries go unheard. Neither Divine Law and civic justice will, or perhaps can, prevail and wickedness seems to be the uncontested victor. Then, as if that’s not bad enough, Habakkuk finally hears God’s response- He’s send the Babylonians in to punish the people- and Habakkuk has a cow!
Habakkuk 1:12-13- LORD, You have chosen the Babylonians to punish the people; our Rock, You picked them to punish. Your eyes are too good to look at evil; You cannot stand to see those who do wrong. So how can You put up with those evil people? How can You be quiet when the wicked swallow up people who are better than they are?
     Did you catch that? Not 5 minutes ago, Habakkuk was lamenting the evil of his own people. And now, suddenly, the Babylonians are more wicked than Habakkuk’s people! I read that and I want to ask Habakkuk, “Would you like a little more cheese with that whine?” He complained because there was no solution, and now he complains because there IS a solution…and he doesn’t like it! He can’t reconcile God’s justice with the evil he sees around him. So he figures that God is either NOT just…or NOT omnipotent!
     Do you ever feel that way? “This CAN’T be the work of a just God! Or if He IS just, then He must be toothless!” What do we do when we feel that way? Let’s see what Habakkuk did.
Habakkuk 3:2, 17-19- LORD, I have heard the news about you; I am amazed at what you have done. LORD, do great things once again in our time; make those things happen again in our own days. Even when you are angry, remember to be kind. Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines. There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields. There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns. But I will still be glad in the LORD; I will rejoice in God my Savior. The Lord GOD is my strength.
     Habakkuk hears God’s full plan- He is going to discipline Judah, but then He is going to destroy Babylon. Habakkuk hears that and is filled with awe. But…Babylon? How can God use such an impure, godless agent? How can God possibly use…THEM? But God says, “Just live by faith and let ME judge the proud.” He won’t let Babylon’s wickedness go unpunished.  But in the meantime, Habakkuk is to not ask so many questions and just live by faith. God quotes that great theologian Junie B. Jones- “It’s none of your own personal, top secret, personal beeswax!”
     Habakkuk sees how God is going to work. Then, he asks God for both strength and mercy. Habakkuk prays for a fresh dose of God’s power AND a full measure of God’s pardon. But notice, even then, that his request is linked to time: he asks God to do things “in our day, our time.” In his prayer, there is a sense of immi
nence and immediacy.
     Habakkuk was about to “go under” when the book started. Destruction, violence, strife, conflict, injustice and wickedness were all he could see. But he cried out to God, and God answered his complaint and provided him with a renewed confidence. Habakkuk started in the pits but ended on the mountaintop. And he didn’t merely endure his time of distress- he actually rejoiced in it. He was full of joy. Far too many people try to buy joy, but you can’t. You can buy happiness, because happiness is fleeting and transitory- other people can take it away from you. But joy is a different thing entirely. Joy is all about inner peace, and inner peace doesn’t depend on outward prosperity.
     In the show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s dad Frank introduces the gang to a new holiday he’s created to replace Christmas. He calls it Festivus- a Festivus for the rest of us! Kramer really gets into it, saying, “Frank, this new holiday is scratching me right where I itch!” Well, God scratches us right where we itch. God is our inexhaustible source of hope- an infinite supply of joy that is available to everyone but is ONLY found in an intimate and personal relationship with God.
     The important lesson to be gleaned from the life of Habakkuk is the true value of faith. We simply can’t survive very long with shallow faith- it will dry up when the heat comes. A lot of folks have faith that is a MILE wide…but only a ¼ of an inch deep! When things are going great, they are the most devout Christians ever. But when the going gets tough, there simply isn’t enough depth there to weather the storm. Our relationship with God needs to always be moving into deeper water- deep and wide. Is that your kind of faith?
     Do you ever feel like you are under a load that is so heavy you can’t crawl out? Well, I just stopped by today to tell you that the only way to get out from under such a load is to get under God. Because to be under God is to be over your circumstances. In the end, Habakkuk’s complaints were swallowed up by his confidence. When all was said and done, his fear was turned into faith. He was transformed from a sour, bitter man- weighed down with the burdens of life- to a secure, joyous follower of God. And he was sustained by God’s blessing.
     I am a huge fan of the movie Forrest Gump. Later in the movie, Forrest sits in his mom’s bedroom, having just learned that she had cancer, and asks, “What’s my destiny, Momma?” She replies, “You’re gonna have to figure that out for yourself.” Well, I would respectfully disagree with Mrs. Gump- we DON’T have to figure it all out for ourselves. We can turn to God for His guidance. BUT… we have to be willing to hear what God has to say. And we have to be willing to act on what He has to say. If we are willing to ask God for help, we HAVE to also be willing to actually listen and respond.
     God IS working in the world. God is also working in our lives…whether we recognize that fact or not. And God has plans for us- as individuals, as families and as a church. And those plans are NOT just ordinary, pedestrian plans. They are plans that reach beyond our understanding. They are plans that offer a magnificence that is beyond our comprehension. They are plans that can turn a sob into a song!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Those POOR Greens

Saturday, November 24- Apparently, I Live in Brigadoon!

     Do you remember Brigadoon? Written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, it is a musical about a town in the Scottish highlands that appears out of the mist for only one day every 100 years. New Yorkers Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, hiking those very same Scottish highlands, stumble upon this town, frozen in time. A love story then unfolds (in 24 SHORT hours!) and a decision has to be made whether to stay with Brigadoon when it disappears back into the mist or instead go back to life in New York. The musical originally opened on Broadway in 1947 and ran for 581 performances. It has since seen countless professional revivals, high school and college productions, a major motion picture AND a made-for-TV movie. It has, as the say in the business, “legs”!
     I was reminded of Brigadoon this past week…several times! In…let me get this JUST right…northwest central Illinois (whew!), we just passed through that time we hit EVERY year- the weather conditions are just right to ensure a HEAVY fog from sunset to well past sunrise. The first day it hit, I had to drive my son to school in a town about 7 miles away. To say the fog was thick would be an understatement. We encountered the recently aftermath of a wreck on the way that forced me to take an alternate route back home. So there I was, on country roads I had NEVER been on, and I can’t see more than about 30-40 feet in front of me! It was fun!
     That night, my wife and I drove about 35 minutes to a neighboring town to run some errands. It was SO foggy on the way back that I missed one of my turns! The next morning, the drive to school was no better, but fortunately was devoid of car crashes! 
     When you are in the middle of that environment, it is very claustrophobic. You can almost FEEL the fog press in around you. The end result is a very strong sense of isolation. And as I experienced that feeling, I thought about how many times in my life I had felt isolated- NOT by weather conditions but by…LIFE conditions.
     Have you ever felt that way? Of course you have, because you’re human. (You ARE human…aren’t you?!) The truth of the matter is that isolation can be a very real problem. And you don’t have to be physically removed from civilization the be isolated. You can live right smack in the middle of lots of people and feel terribly isolated. 
     What can we do when we experience that kind of isolation? There are two things:
1. Pray about it. Ask God to give you the strength to rise above the loneliness and isolation. Ask Him to guide you into ways that can help you get beyond it.
2. Intentionally DO the things that God pushed you toward. Have the courage and assuredness to trust that God is guiding you and step out in faith.
     It is ONLY through these 2 things that you can get out of the cycle of loneliness and isolation. But if you DO these two things, God WILL respond and help guide you through the fog and into the life of a new life!
    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- From Sob to Song: The Book of Habbakuk

Friday, November 23- “Oh, the Humanity!”

     Do you remember what the quote in the title is from? On Thursday, May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg was attempting to dock with its mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station near Lakehurst, New Jersey, the unthinkable happened. It caught fire and was completely and utterly destroyed.
 Reporter Herbert Morrison was one of the newpeople on site to cover the event. As the horror unfolded before him, he uttered those now famous…or perhaps infamous words. 
     Although, if I’m brutally honest, what I am about to talk about has NO comparison to the horror of the Hindenburg…I think of that quote every year when…Black Friday rolls around! I am appalled by Black Friday. The quote that has been going around this season hits the nail on the head, if you ask me- “Black Friday: because only in America people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have!”
     SO I’m appalled by Black Friday…and yet it’s like watching train wreck- I simply can’t look away! Now don’t get me wrong- I try HARD to avoid actually going to a store on Black Friday. But I DO pay attention to the overwhelming lines and the frightening rudeness of the people. It’s amazing that people will resort to throwing punches to make sure they get little Timmy that Wreck-It Ralph action figure with the wind-up punching action and kung fu grip! (How ironic that I chose “wind-up punching action” to describe the toy that people are using…wind-up punching action to get!!) 
     For me, there are 2 things about Black Friday that bother me. (OK, there are MORE than just 2…but there are 2 that primarily bother me!)
1. People seem to turn into animals. It is like throwing a cow in a pool of piranhas. They smell blood…and it’s ALL over! When did we fall SO far as a society that things like basic social skills are gone?
2. The emphasis is clearly on rampant consumerism. We HAVE to have this and we NEED that! 
     God calls us to a different understanding of life. God calls us to treat each other with civility and dignity. He also calls us to be grateful for the gifts we have already been given and NOT covet what our neighbor has. (I seem to remember a commandment that talks about that!) This year, help start a new trend, set a new example. Refuse to treat others badly. Refuse to let the bloodlust of “stuff” take over your life. Instead, focus on what you have. Focus on the greatest gift of all- Jesus Christ.
          Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow-, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Apparently, I live in Brigadoon!

Thursday, November 22- “…With a Grateful Heart”

      I have shared before that I am a big fan of the Peanuts cartoons. I especially like the actual comic strips, but also like the TV specials…or at least SOME of the TV specials! The best one of all, of course, is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I mean, where else can you watch a cartoon and hear the Gospel (Luke) account of Jesus’ birth recited? Gotta love it!
     Another Peanuts TV special that’s good is the Thanksgiving special. Early in the show, Charlie Brown says, “We’ve got ANOTHER holiday to worry about. It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.” His sister Sally responds, “I haven’t even finished eating all of my Halloween candy!” 
     I connect with that sentiment all too well! It is so easy to get so caught up in the “busyness” of holidays that we lose them entirely and end up saying things like, “Happy Hallowthanksmas!”(Think about it!) Sally captures that concept when she says, “Do you know what we have to do? We have to write an essay on Stanley Miles.” Charlie Brown responds, “You mean Miles Standish.” To which Sally says, “I can’t keep track of all those names!”
     But later in the episode, resident philosopher and consistent voice of reason Linus sums up the true understanding of Thanksgiving, “In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: ‘We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.'” There’s a moment of silence, and then Peppermint Patty, who is typically the bull in the proverbial china shop, says simply, “Amen.”
     I DO thank God for my home and my food the safety in my land. I thank God for the opportunity for freedom and justice. But it is SO easy to take those things for granted, isn’t it? Later in the episode, Charlie Brown is feeling low and Marcie tells him, “Don’t feel bad, Chuck. Peppermint Patty didn’t mean all those things she said. Actually, she really likes you.” Charlie Brown replies, “I don’t feel bad for myself, I just feel bad because I’ve ruined everyone’s Thanksgiving.” Marcie says, “But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.”
     We SHOULD be thankful for being together…as the body of Christ. Not everyone has a biological family. And not everybody who DOES have one has a functional, healthy one. But we can ALL have a CHURCH family that will love us and support- one that we can be thankful for. So this Thanksgiving…today…give thanks, with a grateful heart!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- “Oh, the Humanity!”

Wednesday, November 21- High Voltage Faith- Apparent Power

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today, we complete our current study, High Voltage Faith.)
     The USS Missouri was cruising off the coast of Nova Scotia when a storm came up. Through the wind and waves, a light was spotted in the distance, bearing down on the ship. The alarm was sounded and the captain radioed the bridge, checking to see if it was a passing freighter. The crew didn’t know the source of the light. As the captain continued to track the movement of the light, he found that it was indeed heading straight for the Missouri AND it was drawing closer and closer. Was their radar jammed? Had they not seen the lights of the Missouri? He then hailed the other ship on the radio, “Turn 15 degrees south; you are on a collision course with the USS Missouri.” The response came back, “USS Missouri, you need to turn 45 degrees north; you are on a collision course.” The captain fired back, “I am the Captain of the Navy vessel USS Missouri. Turn 15 degrees south or we will blow you from the water!” The response came back quickly, “I am the keeper of the Nova Scotia lighthouse. Turn 45 degrees north or else you’ll run aground!”
     Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity. If you really want to test a man’s character, give him power.” For the past few weeks, we have focused on electrical terms like auxiliary, reactive and real. Today we close by looking at Apparent Power- it is the vector sum of true and reactive power. In other words, when true and reactive power meet, their sum is apparent power.
     Let’s look at the story of how God made a hero out of the most unlikely person. It’s a story of transformation a story about Gideon – not the guy who wrote the hotel room Bibles, but an Old Testament farmer. He had no political ambitions and was not a military leader. He had no desire to be anything but a farmer…but God had different plans!
     The Midianites were stealing people’s crops and livestock, and they would destroy what they couldn’t carry. This had gone on for 7 years and it was getting old. The people cried out to God to deliver them, and God called Gideon. He became a Judge, raised by God, to deliver the Israelites from their enemy. Was he a traditional hero?  Not this one- he was a bitter/, weak farmer- and in the beginning of the story, he was a…coward.
     We find him threshing wheat in a winepress, hiding from the Midianites. This is not the picture of a courageous hero. This is a picture of a defeated, discouraged man. But then God challenges him, and Gideon accepts. He steps up and begins to change things. He issues a call to arms and the people respond. But then Gideon gets nervous- it’s one thing for a farmer to say he’s going to lead an army in battle, nut it’s another thing entirely to actually do it!So Gideon says to God, “If You really want me to do this, give me a sign. Use the sheep’s fleece- in the morning, if the ground is dry but the fleece is wet, then I’m it. And God did just that. But Gideon was not convinced, “Try again- best out of 3! If the ground is wet and the is fleece dry, then I’m it.” Again God did it. So Gideon says, “God must be serious.” As he’s really psyched about the whole thing, because 32,000 men show up to fight with him!
     Gideon looks over the troops and says, “Awesome- this just might work.” But God says, “Not so fast. You have too many men.” Gideon says, “Huh?” God says, “When they win, they will think they did it all themselves. Tell them if any of them are afraid, they are to go home.” Gideon does, and 22,000 leave! Wow!
     But there are still 10,000 men left. And God says, “Nope. You still have too many!” And again, Gideon says, “Huh?” God says, “Take them to to the water. Separate those who lap the water like dogs from those who kneel and drink.” Well, 9,700 kneel and drink, while 300 lap like a dog. God says, “With these 300 men, I will hand the Midianites over to you.” But Gideon is STILL not convinced. And God says, “You don’t believe Me? Sneak to the enemy camp and listen in.”
     Judges 7:13-22 – Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.” 14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” 15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the
camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. 17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’ ” 19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords and the army fled.
     In 1887, Lord Acton said to Bishop Creighton, “Power corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” John Stuart Mill said, “Power corrupts. And absolute power is kind of neat!” So Gideon’s men blow their trumpets. They then break their empty jars, revealing the torches inside, while they yell, ‘For God and for Gideon!’” Normally there would be 1 trumpet and 1 torch for every 100 men. So to the Midianites, this seems like 30,000 with swords, so they run away. Gideon was transformed into a warrior, and in very unlikely fashion, he experiences personal revival.
     The 4-minute mile was the holy grail for many runners. People had been trying to do it since the time of the Greeks. Eventually, it was decided that it was physically impossible. But then on May 6, 1954-, Roger Bannister broke the seemingly unbreakable 4-minute mile. And within a year, 300 more runners broke it! Gideon challenged the others to do their best. His risk-taking inspired others to move out in faith.He was bitter, disappointed and afraid…all great reasons to push away from God. But are YOU threshing wheat in hiding, afraid to go public with your faith, afraid to do what God wants? It’s one thing to meet God down in the winepress, but it’s another thing altogether to stand up for God in public.
     God is still looking for Gideon
s today- folks who are willing to step out and do great things. But
God’s view of who is useful is very different from ours! We look at talent, influence, beauty and fame. But God?  Not so much! He looks for a willing vessel, and He won’t use those who think they have already arrived, who know all the answers, who can do it all, who are too busy listening to themselves to hear what God has to say.
     John Lehman said, “One person with belief is equal to the power of 99 people who have only their interests. Do you ever feel ordinary? Do you ever feel like you are an unlikely candidate to do anything significant for God? If so, then you are just the of person God loves to work with and through! God is a master at using the unlikely, of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. But we can’t win battles while hiding in a winepress! We have to come out in the open and take a stand. Mario Andretti said, “If everything’s under control, then you’re going too slow.”
     Reactive power plus real power equals apparent power…AND it gives us access to UPS – Uninterruptable Power Supply! It was Jimi Hendrix who said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace.” In this story, God’s real power meets Gideon’s reactive power and the result is…apparent. And what is that result? High-voltage faith, an Uninterrupted Power Source  that can’t be contained!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- “…With a Grateful Heart”